The plan for a pint in our local or a meal in our favourite restaurant has been one of the simple ideas that has kept many of us going through the pandemic. These businesses are at the heart of many communities, acting as social hubs and boosting the local economy. Esh Winning needs the Stag’s Head; Brandon, the Brawn’s Den; and what Durham student experience is compete without a pre-lecture trip to Flat White? We cannot forget that when this cruel Government refused to feed our most vulnerable children during the school holidays, it was businesses such as the Drunken Duck in Durham that stepped up. In May, it was the Capital restaurant that delivered more than 100 free meals to our frontline NHS staff at University Hospital of North Durham.
That is why the Chancellor’s limited support for hospitality in the Budget was so disappointing. Yes, there were good elements to it, but the hospitality sector is facing incredible uncertainty, and the Budget fell well short of the recovery plan needed for the years ahead. Hospitality needs sector-specific support from Government that protects businesses and workers, such as an extended job retention scheme that ensures that no worker falls below the minimum wage, and is contingent upon greater rights for workers. That means guaranteed hours, utilising job sharing, and an end to fire-and-rehire tactics.
On top of that, over the last year businesses have taken on massive amounts of debt in order to stay afloat, and many now face a cashflow crisis. The Chancellor desperately needs to listen to Labour and introduce measures that will alleviate that pressure. Finally, the Government must recognise that 5,500 pubs and bars in the UK have closed since 2010. I urge the Government to help to address that by creating a hospitality commission that can identify the needs of the sector while helping to move it away from its reliance on low-paid, insecure work.
The hospitality sector provides many jobs to Durham, and attracts students to our university and tourists from across the world. I know that my respect for hospitality workers and businesses is shared by Members from all parties, so surely there is the collective will in this House to deliver a recovery strategy that secures the future of businesses while protecting the jobs and rights of workers. These businesses are the lifeblood of our communities. We simply have to ensure that they are still here not just come June, but next year and the year after that.